TOKYO (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Shinsuke Shimada, one of Japan's leading television hosts, has been forced to retire from the entertainment industry over his alleged connection to a reputed member of a Japanese organized crime syndicate.
The gravel-voiced comedian has been a fixture on Japanese television for decades, appearing as a talk show and variety show host on programs such as the ironically named "Legal Advice."
According to Japan Times, Shinsuke Shimada, repped by Yoshimoto Creative Agency, has been allegedly linked by investigators to an undisclosed, but senior member of the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza, Japan's largest organized crime 'family.'
Another man, Jiro Watanabe, a former fly weight world boxing champion turned alleged yakuza member, had allegedly served as an intermediary between Shimada and the senior gangster, helping to resolve a controversy Shimada sparked with a right wing group over comments Shimada made on air. In text messages allegedly sent to Watanabe over a two year period, Shimada expressed concern for the unnamed senior gangster, who had been arrested by Osaka police on an unrelated mattter, and offering thanks for the gangster's purchase of expensive food and drinks at a bar owned by Shimada.
Shimada claimed that he did not know Watanabe was involved in organized crime and he has not been charged with violating any laws.
"I did not feel that I was doing something wrong. To me (the relationship) was 'safe.' But I was told by my agency the day before yesterday that it was 'out.'" Shimada said during the news conference where he announced his resignation.
Shimada's public deletion has been swift and Japanese broadcasters have quickly pulled a number of upcoming programs that featured the performer.
Unlike their American counterparts, the Yakuza operate as quasi legal organizations with official headquarters, lapel pins and newsletters and their membership dress in styles that make them immediately identifiable. The Yakuza have widely been reputed to have extensive connections in the Japanese entertainment and media industries, though their dominance of the industry is a taboo subject in the Japanese press. – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers